Penalty kick sends Aztecs past No. 25 Tigers

Andy Farra, Staff Photographer

by Patrick Carr, Staff Writer

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The Sports Deck may as well be a burial ground for nationally ranked soccer teams. Since 2005, the San Diego State men’s soccer team has taken down a top-25 team 11 times. On Friday night, they made it 12.

This time SDSU took down the No. 25 Clemson Tigers 2-1 in front of a raucous crowd thanks to a game-winning penalty kick by freshman forward David Olsen.

Olsen stepped up and calmly made the kick, with the keeper guessing the wrong way, sending the crowd into a frenzy and effectively winning the game.

“[He] put it away very calmly as if he were a senior,” head coach Lev Kirshner said afterward. “I mean it was amazing,”

The win improves the Aztecs’ record to 2-1, and the importance of Friday’s thriller wasn’t lost.

“I think it means we have a very bright future,” Olsen said, “This is a big statement for us.”

The Aztecs struck first in the fourth minute through freshman midfielder Jeff Rhodes. Clemson’s junior goalkeeper Chris Glodack saved SDSU sophomore forward Forrayah Bass’ shot, but the rebound fell to Rhodes, who tapped the ball in for a 1-0 lead.

Clemson had two chances from senior midfielder Manolo Sanchez, whose wide-open header sailed over the crossbar. Sanchez also had a one-on-one saved by SDSU redshirt-freshman goalkeeper Adam Allmaras.

The Tigers’ persistence payed off as they equalized on the resulting corner kick. Junior defender Kyle Fisher volleyed in from close-range after fellow junior T.J. Casner’s corner kick.

Shortly before halftime, Rhodes should’ve put the Aztecs up 2-1 when he was one-on-one with Glodack, but Rhodes’ shot was tame and easily saved.

The game changed for SDSU in the second half when freshman forward Donald Benamna came in, as his speed added a new element to the game, putting Clemson defenders on their heels.

Benamna picked up the ball and sped down the left side, cut in and passed it to fellow freshman Kevin Baboylan, whose shot was way over. Benamna also had another chance, but Glodack was up to the task and held on to the low shot.

Sanchez nearly stole the game for Clemson, but Allmaras got just enough of Sanchez’s thunderous shot to deflect it onto the crossbar and out of harm’s way.

SDSU would control the rest of the game, marking the improvement they’ve made in the past two games.

“Our energy was very good on the defensive side to get good pressure on the ball,” Kirshner said. “And then what we haven’t been doing is holding onto the ball and circulating it.”

With more eyes turning toward the clock, SDSU almost scored twice. Bass’ shot actually went in from a corner, but he was ruled offside. Next was Benamna’s free-kick from 20 yards away, which went just over the bar.

But in the 87th minute with the game winding down, the Aztecs finally struck gold. Benamna raced into the penalty area and won a penalty kick after he was dragged down.

Olsen sent the kick into the right-side corner and sent the Aztecs happily into their weekend.

“It feels amazing, I haven’t quite felt anything like that in a long time,” he said.

The win was made all the more important due to the particular makeup of SDSU’s team: 20 newcomers.

“We are a young group trying to figure each other out, needing to know if we can handle this level,” Kirshner said. “We’re heading into the Pac-12 in three weeks so this is a massive victory for us.”

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